Harlow Van Voorhees’ Episode Guide: The Apple Sisters #12

The following is a message from one of our special contributors. Enjoy!

Hail, hail, radio-fans!

Harlow Van Voorhees here. Permit me a brief autobiographical sketch. I am a sociologist, professor of radio history, proud American, human calculator and author of the unpublished book, Go Ahead and Fist Her: An Apple Sister’s Episode Guide. As a young man growing up in the Midwest, I would sit with my ear against the radio almost every night. I would thrill to the adventures of Johnny Dawson: Space Traveler, laugh along to the antics of Mr. Arbuckle & The Darkie and be confusedly aroused by Smokey The Bear and The Snuff-It-Out Gang. But for me, the greatest show was always The Apple Sisters’ Variety Show.

Flash forward 60+ years. I’m living in a one bedroom apartment and suffering from a deep depression after my wife, Pegeen, left me for a close-up magician. By luck or fate, the day the divorce papers were served to me, construction workers building the set for the delightful Greg Behrendt Show, uncover a cache of all the original Apple Sisters episodes. I’m contacted via my LinkedIn profile to catalog all the episodes, and while listening I’m transported back in time. I’m that little boy again, in my Citizen Kane pajamas, ear against the radio, and all is right with the world.

Earwolf has kindly asked me to provide excerpts from my episode guide for some of the upcoming shows. So, without further ado…

The Apple Sisters Episode #12 – Original Airdate: 8/15/1943

Plot Summary:  In a very special episode, the girls get together to save lives by reading their new venereal disease PSAs. In the mailroom they find out the listener’s biggest “whoops” moments. And they sing their hit song, “Whoops Daddy.” Mayhem ensues.

Notes:  This is the episode that popularized the phrase “Whoops Daddy” as a reference to sexual intercourse in American culture. Previously the term had been used only by the medical community as a euphemism for a prolapsed rectum. The phrase has evolved through the years, originally to “whoopsy daisy,” then, “makin’ whoopee,” later, “whoops,” and finally to today’s usage of simply “oops,” as in, “Let’s oops,” or “Listen, old man, you’re going to have to pay me a lot more if you want to oops on my face.” (For further information on the etymology of this phrase, consult the Flocabulary book, Word Up: Level Indigo.)

While this is a very funny episode, one thing that’s no laughing matter is venereal disease. In 1943, 1 out 5 women in the US would die from the following causes: hepatitis D, gonorrhea, scabies, shigellosis, black taint, weeping labia and malaria (which was mistakenly categorized as a STD in 1943 and left untreated in order to punish women of loose moral character).

This episode is a great illustration of the much more relaxed standards for content and decency that existed in the 30’s and early 40’s on radio. An even greater example was Cora Apple’s side project at the time: a weekly radio show called Miss Trixie, Frontier Whore. (As evidence of the Apple Sisters’ lasting influence on pop-culture — and the changing role of women in society — 50 years later this show was slightly re-written and brought to television as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.) What you have to remember is it wasn’t until 1949 when the radio obscenity trials were held. It was during these trials that the seven dirty words you can’t say on radio and the four clean words you must include in every episode were delineated. The moment the trials are probably best known for was when Judge Beatrix famously said, “I can’t define obscenity…I also forgot what ‘ambidextrous’ means. Dear me…I think I’m having a stroke. Please get help!”

Until next time…